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The language of illness – that’s what healthy language looks like, and that’s what it looks like when it refers to illness

Human language is a wonderful thing. Thousands of invisible taste buds make food fun, and allow us to connect with each other or share a passionate kiss with our love.

But it can also teach us other things about our health, it indicates potential infections, diseases and lifestyle deficiencies. That is why it is good to understand what a healthy tongue looks like, and in this article we will show you exactly what it is.

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The characteristics of a sound language

A healthy (normal) tongue is pink and covered with small bumps called papillae. The shade of pink may change (red is no longer healthy), the papillae should cover a significant part of the upper surface. These bumps are also located on the underside of the tongue, but they are easily noticeable.

This is what a healthy tongue looks like

A healthy tongue is pink, shiny, full of tiny bumps in the sense of taste, and there is nothing more than a thin layer of white plaque on it. Source: shutterstock.com

unhealthy language

If your tongue is anything but pink, or has large white, brown, black, or other colored spots, this may indicate a specific health problem. Likewise, if you have large papillae or no bumps on your tongue at all, you should see a doctor.

Thrush

Oral thrush is a condition in which a fungus (usually Candida albicans) grows on the tongue. This condition is easy to spot because the tongue is usually almost “furry” with large white spots.

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Oral lichen planus (OLP)

Oral lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the lining of the mouth. It can appear as white or red spots, swollen tissue, or open sores. You may also feel discomfort, such as burning.

In the division according to the WHO, 7 forms are distinguished: reticular, papular, plaque, atrophic, erosive, ulcerative and bullous.  They often appear as white patches, red spots, red swollen areas, or even open sores.  Red, inflamed lesions and sores can cause a painful burning sensation.

In the division according to the WHO, 7 forms are distinguished: reticular, papular, plaque, atrophic, erosive, ulcerative and bullous. They often appear as white patches, red spots, red swollen areas, or even open sores. Red, inflamed lesions and sores can cause a painful burning sensation. Source: shutterstock.com

leukoplakia

Leukoplakia are thick white patches on the tongue and sometimes inside the mouth. They can appear on the upper or lower side, and vary in size and severity. It’s thought to be caused by smoking or alcohol, but it can also be an early sign of cancer.

Leukoplakia appears as thick, convex, plaque-like, non-removable white spots on the mucous membrane of the oral cavity, which can turn brown and crack.  The spots can take on a transparent or grayish tint, but at least one area has a clear, well-defined edge.

Leukoplakia appears as thick, convex, plaque-like, non-removable white spots on the mucous membrane of the oral cavity, which can turn brown and crack. The spots can take on a transparent or grayish tint, but at least one area has a clear, well-defined edge. Source: shutterstock.com

Vitamin B deficiency

A red tongue can mean many things, among them a deficiency of B vitamins, especially folic acid (B9) and cobalamin (B12).

A deficiency of vitamin B12 and folic acid leads to anemia, the first symptoms of which always appear in the mouth.  The epithelium of the tongue atrophies and thins, the tongue becomes burning and painful.

A deficiency of vitamin B12 and folic acid leads to anemia, the first symptoms of which always appear in the mouth. The epithelium of the tongue atrophies and thins, the tongue becomes burning and painful. Source: shutterstock.com

carmine

Scarlet fever is a bacterial disease that can affect patients with strep throat. It most often occurs in children between the ages of 5 and 15, and is a serious condition that requires medical treatment. It often appears red or light pink on the tongue, but it can also be plain pink. Bumps may also appear on the tongue, which may resemble the surface of a strawberry.

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Scarlet fever is a typical childhood disease, most affected between 5 and 15 years of age.  Of course, older and younger people can also get it, although much less often, and in their case the symptoms are also not typical.

Scarlet fever is a typical childhood disease, most affected between 5 and 15 years of age. Of course, older and younger people can also get it, although much less often, and in their case the symptoms are also not typical. Source: shutterstock.com

Kawasaki disease

Like scarlet fever, Kawasaki disease is red or bright pink, with bumps on the tongue that may look like strawberries. This is not dangerous, but you should talk to your doctor because there is a risk of heart problems if left untreated.

Symptoms of Kawasaki disease: bilateral non-secretory conjunctivitis, abnormalities of the oral mucosa: redness, swelling of the tonsils, berries of the tongue, chapped lips.  Enlarged lymph node in the neck, swelling in the palms and soles, redness that begins to heal in the second week with peeling around the nails, a rash that starts from the perineum and then spreads to the trunk and extremities.

Symptoms of Kawasaki disease: bilateral non-secretory conjunctivitis, abnormalities of the oral mucosa: redness, swelling of the tonsils, berries of the tongue, chapped lips. Enlarged lymph node in the neck, swelling in the palms and soles, redness that begins to heal in the second week with peeling around the nails, a rash that starts from the perineum and then spreads to the trunk and extremities. Source: shutterstock.com

yellow tongue

A yellow tongue can result from a number of problems, including lifestyle habits such as smoking, certain vitamins, psoriasis, and jaundice. Usually you don’t have to worry about this, but again, talk to your doctor if you are concerned.

hairy tongue

A hairy tongue can result from a buildup of dead skin cells that contain taste buds. It usually looks like a brown or black spot located in the center of the tongue. This is a harmless condition that can be caused by tobacco and some antibiotics, and the tongue itself is washed.

A black hairy tongue can be a very strange symptom, which is not usually accompanied by pain or discomfort, but it says a lot about our health.  These symptoms occur most often in smokers and those who neglect oral hygiene.

A black hairy tongue can be a very strange symptom, which is not usually accompanied by pain or discomfort, but it says a lot about our health. These symptoms occur most often in smokers and those who neglect oral hygiene. Source: shutterstock.com

Split the tongue, the language of the map

A cracked tongue is a harmless change that is manifested by grooves on the surface of the tongue. A special form of this case is the so-called Map language, when grooves border white and red areas, giving the tongue a map-like appearance. Shallow or deep cracks on the tongue do not cause pain or other complaints.

The tongue ages over time, so it's common for older adults to develop deep fissures on the previously soft tongue, which can be a breeding ground for bacteria, so it's worth paying more attention to oral hygiene than usual.

The tongue ages over time, so it’s common for older adults to develop deep fissures on the previously soft tongue, which can be a breeding ground for bacteria, so it’s worth paying more attention to oral hygiene than usual. Source: shutterstock.com